Arts, Crafts and Covid

November was all about the hustle. Andreas and I have set a December 14th deadline to wrap up all 2021 classes, commissions and social engagements because we hope to travel overseas again.

The deadline has been good for me to focus on my commission list and not let distractions slow my routine down. I’m still learning how to be a full-time artist and am trying to push myself everyday to focus on studio work and marketing. I have hired a new studio assistant; a former student of mine, Julia Robinson has joined Dragonfly Art Studios. I taught Julia private art lessons through her junior high and high school years. She has recently graduated college with a degree in Studio Art. Her focus at the moment is in fabric arts and crafts. She is a huge help keeping the studio organized and keeping up with some production processes.

Julia grinding glass for future windows.

I’m participating in four shows this winter. The first show is at the Havre de Grace, Maryland Maritime Museum. The show is called, Up to Here and it addresses the issue of climate change through art. The opening of the show on the 19th was well attended. Andreas and I drove down with our friend Maggie and went out to dinner after the show.

On the 24th, Julia and Andreas met me at Sinclair’s Café on Main St. in Newark at 7am to help hang my solo show of photographs. The photos are macro images of plants, flowers, ice and cicadas from our garden. The show is titled Nottingham Forest 2020. During our Covid self-quarantine time I focused my camera on our garden and created a new body of work. This show will be on view until February 2022.

The third show that I prepared work for this month is The BIG Little and Little Little Art Show at the Talleyville Frame Shoppe and Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware. This is a group show where artists submit work that is 6”x 6” square. This year we were also able to submit work that was under 4” square for the Little Little show. The exhibit will be up through the month of December.

The fourth show that I’m preparing for will open in March at the Oxford Arts Alliance in Oxford, Pennsylvania. This is a Trashy Women group show.

In addition to preparing work for shows I’ve been filling commissions for clients. I painted a birdhouse with the characters from the P.D. Eastman book, The Best Nest for a family in Connecticut, made five polar bear stained glass windows for Delaware Special Olympics’ Polar Bear Plunge event and finished a logo design in stained glass for a new client. I have three more commissions on the table that I’m trying to finish for our December 14th deadline.

The artist collective Trashy Women that I belong to met up at the Cecil County Arts Council’s Gala on the 5th. The theme and dress code for the evening was black and white. Of course, none of us got the message so, we were our colorful selves sticking out of the crowd as usual. It was a very fun night. We met up again on the 26th for Treb’s mother’s birthday at Whimsical Farm for a bonfire potluck. It was a cold night, but Andreas, Julien and I had a good time.

Andreas turned 60 on the 9th. His sister Christina made him a special German cake and she, George and Julien sang him a happy birthday. We had a party with his friends on the 13th. Andreas grilled meat from Treb’s farm and we had a big potluck dinner. It was the first time we had seen a lot of these friends since summer.

Birthday boy with his German cake.

I missed his dinner on the 9th with family because my German teacher at the Saengerbund recruited me to create and lead a craft project for St. Martin’s Day. I created templates for paper lanterns that my classmates put together. We had to learn the lantern song and paraded around the Saengerbund bar with our finished lanterns. I spent two days preparing that project. A little silly, but worth it.

Louis and Martin hard at work on their craft project.
Laterne Laterne

On the 22nd my cousin Tom and his family were in town to visit cousin Erin. We met for lunch at Homegrown Café and then returned to the house to see the studio. Pictured is cousin Skylar’s significant other Lane, whom I got to meet for the first time. He made friends with a monster pillow right away.

I spent Thanksgiving morning at Sherri’s house watching her cook and playing with her cats.

Sadly, on Thanksgiving afternoon our family dinner was cancelled because my aunt wasn’t feeling well so, Andreas cooked a German dinner for Julien and I. We were able to have an American Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday thanks to Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Dave. They generously invited Julien as well so he could enjoy the whole experience.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner thanks to my aunt.

The beautiful fall leaves have now fallen from the trees. My friend Terri and I enjoyed them when they were at their peak on our walks. I would normally say the weather is getting cooler, but it’s 55 degrees today.  I had the Chimney repaired and cleaned so Andreas could have a fires in the fireplace. Hopefully we can use it soon.

A month ago we thought that the Delta variant numbers were going down we planned our December trip. Lately we are questioning whether we should travel. Andreas, Christina and I recently consulted with their brother Burkhard about traveling in Germany.

Sibling Kaffeeklatsch

Now there is a new variant and the world is gearing up for changes. I can’t predict what my next message to you will be about. Will you see photos of Germany or somewhere in the USA? Time will tell.

Let’s not end the blog with Covid, let’s end with a craft. On the last day of the month my friend’s Mary and Marijke came to my kitchen to create gingerbread houses for the Newark Arts Alliance Gingerbread Bash. Marijke created Santa emerging from a chimney with a Christmas tree and Mary and I built the three little pigs story in gingerbread, candy, pretzels and cereal. The big, bad wolf has blown down the straw house and is headed for the stick house. The terrified pigs are running to their brother’s strong brick house. The brother is not amused. Ha ha, see you next month.

Photos and artwork by Dragonfly Leathrum.

Summer Recipe: add Gardens, Friends and Art

It is a rare, gorgeous 73-degree July morning. I love having the windows open and the air conditioner off. Yesterday was my birthday. I spent most of the day finishing and uploading a grant proposal that is due in a couple of days and teaching. I also made time to swim and Andreas cooked a wonderful dinner to share with our friends.

We have enjoyed a good summer so far. The gardens have been prolific with fruits and vegetables. In some cases, producing much better than past years. Andreas is still perplexed that we were able to grow cabbage. The new variety of produce is stretching his recipe library and I think he enjoys the challenge. Of course, we are growing more than we can eat, which is no accident. We get a lot of joy sharing any extra.

We are more social now. We have attended art openings, parties, and dinners. On the 4th of July we hosted our first large party for our friend Mary, so she would not need to host her annual party at her house. She provided the guest list, we provided the house, drinks, and sockeye salmon to grill. Mary’s guests and mutual friends brought the rest of the food. It was a fun pot luck on a mild Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Sam Parsons tried to qualify for the Olympics running for Germany. We were able to watch the race on two screens concurrently. The first was on the TV at my brother-in-law’s house in Diez, Germany that I connected to via Zoom while the second was Andreas’ laptop in Newark, U.S.A. Complicated, right? Technology is amazing. Andreas figured out how to access the German network on his computer so we had a better view.

As an early birthday present to myself, my friend Linda and I took a train to New York City for three days. We stayed in an Art Deco style hotel in Greenwich Village, dined at vegan restaurants she wanted to try, walked all over the hot and humid streets of Manhattan, and went to museums. We had two fun, relaxing evenings. The first evening we drank at the hotel bar and shared some appetizers. We were the only patrons in the bar and restaurant. On the second we went to a bar called Wilfie and Nell recommended by my niece Molly. Wilfie and Nell seemed to be favored by twenty/ thirty year olds as a date destination bar. We were surrounded by well dressed couples on their best behavior sharing sweet stories. Oh, and the fries were really good. We recommend.

 Linda and I saw the Alice Neel show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before we walked through the Calder show at the MoMa. In between we somehow found time to lunch on vegan sushi. The Alice Neel show was my main incentive for traveling to the city. We entered the gallery by snaking through other galleries in a crowded line. Despite the wait, I was inspired to be in the same space with so many of Neel’s paintings. It’s an improved experience over flipping through reproductions in a book. The Calder works were wonderful in person and I enjoyed seeing his sketches. Linda commented that he must have very strong hands. Most likely he did working in metal.

Below are some works by Neel, Calder and many other artist that inspired me that day.

 I thought the vegan restaurants Linda researched were imaginative and the food was very well made. Some highlights for me were vegan mac and cheese, Thai food (noodles!), sushi and the peanut butter brownie honeycomb vegan ice cream she found. I will be dreaming about that ice cream. Linda is a well known vegan chef; she made some cute videos of our restaurant experiences. You can see them on Facebook at Ester’s Kitchen and on Instagram @esters_kitchen_ek. She also describes the restaurants and menus more eloquently than I will here.

A vegan breakfast shake with banana, basil, ginger and cacao.

Linda and I felt surprised and mildly annoyed that a lot of businesses don’t accept cash, and menus can only be read on QR codes. That feeling may be us showing our age. We were happy to encounter masks wearing and outdoor dining options across the city. The new to me bike lanes are wonderful, but like in Amsterdam, you have to watch out for the electric bikes.

As with every other season, work consumes most of our time. Andreas is editing and re-writing a paper with colleagues, writing a proposal and preparing to teach three courses in the fall. He is also on the hunt for lantern flies in the garden killing as many of the invasive buggers as he can. I am teaching, working on commissions and in my free time painting new works for upcoming Trashy Women shows. Recently I was given musical instruments to upcycle into art. So far, I have transformed a violin from it’s original brown state to a disgruntled portrait ha ha. Yesterday I picked up some lovely pieces of rusted metal from an artist’s home in Maryland to re-imagine into who knows what. Having a great summer. Hope you are too.

Written by Dragonfly Leathrum

photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Walker Hotel photos by Linda

Del Pizzo

Gibby Annoucement photos by the Gibby Center.

The Christmas Card

I spent a November evening looking through our 2020 life in photos trying to find this year’s Christmas card image. We have a few photos together, but in every one we are wearing masks. My dark sense of humor thinks this would make an “funny” card. Andreas says, “No, not for Christmas, it should be positive.” Back to the search.. garden photos.. no, not Christmassy either.

We didn’t travel ANYWHERE. Which feels strange to us; I didn’t go to the beach this fall. No Oregon photos, no Germany photos, just us in the house staying safe.

Just resting his eyes…not sleeping on the job. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Besides the Covid, (I don’t have to share a graph this month, you all know what’s going on,) it has been a good month. We have a new President on the way which we are both very happy and relieved about. Andreas worked the election polls again. His exposure to over 2,000 people was a little scary and another Covid test was taken.

This is my Biden won, the other guy lost face the day we heard the news.

I participated in The Newark Arts Alliance Gingerbread House contest. That turned out to be pretty fun. Thanks to my friend Joe Daigle and his epic effort of creating an edible Notre Dame it became a big event.

Article from the Newark Post
Gingerbread house making is a big mess. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum.
Bad dogs live here!
Notre Dame in Gingerbread with Gummy Bear stained glass by Joseph Daigle. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
I know, it’s crazy amazing. He did such a good job. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My high school friend, Joelle was in town and stopped by the Arts Alliance to see Notre Dame. Photos by Mrs. Pezely and Joelle.

Andreas had a nice birthday, I hope. It was quiet and he worked all day but the weekend before we had a small lunch party outside with his best friend Pablo and our brother-in-law George.

The birthday boy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had a weird little Thanksgiving. Just the two of us, but thanks to pandemic times and modern technology we were able to see and speak to most of my family over Zoom. Our friends Mary and Les picked up Indian take-out food and dropped it off at our door. Andreas worked through the day, but took the evening off to watch a few movies. All in all, a good day.

Hopefully there will be cranberries and mashed potatoes on this table next year.
Tiny little family portraits. We live all over the US now, so this might be as good as it gets.

Maybe for some of you, spending time in the house has led to some renovations and re-arranging. I spent a lot of time this month moving my office upstairs from my studio. Once space was cleared in the studio, art supplies in the garage filled the office void, which brings us to today with a major garage clean out and re-arranging. That felt good.

Not the photo. haha

So, back to this Christmas card. We settled on a photo that simply captures a day in the life of being home. Nothing special or exotic, just home and we are happy here.

Before and After

Before
Before

After a month and a half of painting and cleaning, the rental property we purchased is ready. I’m so TIRED!! I’m also feeling happy that I met my deadline, came in under budget and the house looks good.

After
After

Back of house
Back of house

The inside painting ended up being a little more complicated than I imagined. Most of the walls and ceiling are wallpapered under existing paint. That meant that all the walls needed to be primed before two coats of paint. The trim and windows also required a primer coat. I tape all of my edges when I paint, but soon learned that when I removed the tape it pulled off old paint and wallpaper. Then there were the walls with wallpaper that needed to be removed.

Before dining room.
Before dining room.

After dining room
After dining room

During painting the dining room. Do I look tired? I AM! The room was hand painted with a brush. Every color has two coats of paint.
During painting the dining room. Do I look tired? I AM! The room was hand painted with a brush. Every color has two coats of paint.

Before dining room
Before dining room

Dining room after
After dining room

It was a steep learning curve aided by the sage advice from Facebook friends who suffered before me. I hired a painter friend to come on the weekends to handle the more difficult spackling work, wallpaper removal, ladder work in the hall and some of the rooms. His professionalism, knowledge and tricks were invaluable. I learned a lot from him and he did a great job.

Before hallway
Before hallway

After hallway
After hallway

After hallway
After hallway

I invited the former owners over to see the changes I made and they liked them. They even changed the heater filter for me while they were there.

Before kitchen
Before kitchen

After kitchen
After kitchen

Andreas and I had concerns that finding renters would be difficult because the University has been uncertain about opening in the fall. I’m happy to report that we found three, none are students, I know their families and I’ve known all of them for over a decade. Today I collected leases and handed out keys. The first to spend the night is a pet rabbit named Benny. It felt really good to turn over the house to others and know that I can work in my studio again tomorrow.

Before and after basement stairs. Why would I want to change this? haha
Before and after basement stairs. Why would I want to change this? haha

While I’ve been working at the house Andreas was offered a summer research job with a colleague in Copenhagen. We are hoping to travel there this winter so they can also work in person, but the timing is unknown because of America’s handling or mis-handling of the pandemic.

Before yeast cake
Before yeast cake

After. Andreas has been baking every weekend.
After. Andreas has been baking every weekend.

We are still quarantining here, but not as strictly. I’ve expanded my shopping to include the hardware and paint store and once in a while we find ourselves social distancing with Christina and George in the house if the weather is too hot. The University decided to have classes online in the fall which makes me happy and Andreas sad. He was really looking forward to teaching an undergraduate class in person.

Before home haircut.
Before home haircut.

After home haircut.
After home haircut. Andreas won’t let me cut his hair lately. He’s trying to bring back the feathered mullet.

Daily gardening has stopped because of the heat and mosquitoes, but the tomato plants are still being well cared for. A few are as tall as me and are producing fruit. The smaller plants at the new property are doing well too.

The beginning of our future gardens. We need rain.
The beginning of our future vegetable garden. We need rain.

Yesterday was my birthday and we enjoyed a delicious socially-distanced dinner at Christina and George’s place. It’s strange to sit down to dinner, not across the table, but across the room from each other and to wear masks in passing.

My birthday cakes. on the left a rhubarb cake by Andreas. That's a German one. I'm not 57. On the right a cake by Christina. Both very delicious and German. Christina's cake was her mother's recipe.
My birthday cakes. On the left a rhubarb cake by Andreas. That’s a German one, I’m not 57. On the right a cake by Christina. Both very delicious and German. Christina’s cake was her mother’s recipe.

Distance dining. Fantastic dinner by Christina. Photo by Christina Parsons
Distance dining. Fantastic birthday dinner by Christina. Photo by Christina Parsons

Life is good here. We hope you are doing well too. Please wear your mask.

 

Re-entry

Hello from America. We’ve had eleven days to re-adjust, re-decorate and re-dedicate ourselves to our old lives.

Starting to re-paint the house Dragonfly style. Andreas picked out the purple paint.
Starting to re-paint the house Dragonfly style. Andreas picked out the purple paint.

On the flight home we shared our row with a friar or monk (whatever you call the dudes in the long brown robes with rope belts) a talker, originally from South Jersey. He’s stationed in Jericho now and was coming home for a holiday at the shore. I caught up on a few movies that I hadn’t seen while we were in Germany on the plane. When we landed in Philadelphia, a half hour late, we were told that the computers in customs were down. Two hours later we happily greeted Andreas’ sister who patiently waited three hours to pick us up.

My in-laws watched our house for us using our place as a base while they build a new home. So, not only was the house clean and ready to live in when we arrived, but we had groceries and good company.

The first things we noticed in Delaware were the sounds of insects at night and the blood thirsty mosquitoes. Even though it’s hot we open the windows to hear the insects through the night and the birds in the morning. In Bremerhaven we heard drunks, sirens and seagulls. I’ll miss the seagulls.

Back to my weekly Sunday walk with friend Terri around the University of Delaware campus. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Back to my weekly Sunday walk with friend Terri around the University of Delaware campus. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Our local farmer's market isn't as grand as the market in Bremerhaven, but my friends are there and I can ask for what I'd like and be understood so I'm happy. Andreas doesn't want to go yet. He misses the German market.
Our local farmer’s market isn’t as grand as the market in Bremerhaven, but my friends are there and I can ask for what I’d like and be understood so I’m happy. Andreas doesn’t want to go yet. He misses the German market.

During our first couple of days back we manically cleaned, re-organized and unpacked. Andreas spent three days in the garden untangling and cutting back a years’ worth of overgrowth.

This area was overgrown, the rose bush was on the ground and there was an apple tree. Andreas removed the weeds, the tree and unearthed a forgotten flower bed in one day in 90 degree heat. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
This area was a mini jungle, the rose bush was on the ground and there was an apple tree. Andreas removed the weeds, the tree and unearthed a forgotten flower bed in one day in 90 degree heat. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

He also spent some time editing and cleaning his office at work which hasn’t changed much in twenty years. Even though we felt tired and jet lagged, the excitement of being back and the desire to do the things we dreamed about in Germany overcame it.

No wheels for me this week. I hope it's fixed soon. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
No wheels for me this week. I hope it’s fixed soon. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My car wasn’t running well after sitting for a year, so I had it towed to the mechanics. Even though I’m home I haven’t had a car to run errands. That’s frustrating, but I think it helped me to stay focused on submitting a grant proposal before it’s deadline, and to unpack the studio prepare it for commissions and classes.

The art studio is unpacked, cleaned up and ready for new art to be made. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The art studio is unpacked, cleaned up and ready for new art to be made. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had our kitchen remodeled when we were overseas. It turned out great and it’s been fun to unpack and thin out our combined kitchen utensils and gadgets. It’s so much brighter than the old kitchen!

The kitchen before photo. Dark, brown and outdated.
The kitchen before photo. Dark, brown and outdated.

The kitchen after photo. Much brighter! Thanks to Linda and Matt DelPizzo. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The kitchen after photo. Much brighter! Thanks to Linda and Matt DelPizzo. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Oh, and I turned 50 a few days ago and had an awesome dinner out with a few friends. It was wonderful to understand the conversations at the table, to understand the waitress and to be able to read everything on the menu. Also, super great to see my friends. I kept staring at my friend Sherri. I couldn’t believe she was actually sitting there in person, not just a video on the phone!

This seems ridiculous. Fifty?! how did that happen?
This seems ridiculous. Fifty?! how did that happen?

I miss our apartment in Germany a little bit because it became so familiar. All in all, though I am very happy to be HOME!

 

85 Years Strong

Birthday sweet bread baked by Christa
Birthday sweet bread baked by Christa

Happy 85th Birthday to Andreas’ father (Vati) Lothar! We recently spent a wonderful weekend in Neustadt in Holstein by the Baltic Sea to visit Andreas’ parents and celebrate this big birthday.

Neustadt Harbor at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Neustadt Harbor at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Lothar was born in 1934 six weeks premature. He made it through some bad times during and after WWII in what is now north western Poland. At age 20 he was ready to work on electric utility grids in Venuezuela, but his father refused to sign the required permission as he was not yet 21. Two years later he joined the newly formed German Air Force instead where he served until his retirement some 30 years later. When Andreas was born, the young family was stationed in Leck, Nordfriesland near the Danish border. He, his wife Christa, and three children moved a few times with the Air Force and have been on a lot of vacations in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and later as retirees America.

Celebrating with champagne. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Celebrating with champagne. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

This past weekend we had a relaxing time walking along Neustadt Harbor, some wonderful meals and lots of long conversations piecing together the past.

There are a lot of swans in Neustadt. I love them. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
There are a lot of swans in Neustadt. I love them. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christa helping me collect beach glass. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa helping me collect beach glass. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The Muenchow’s longtime neighbor and friend Hannelore joined us for coffee and marzipan birthday cake on Saturday. She has known Andreas since he was a little boy in Lederhosen living in Leck, Nordfriesland.

Hannelore and Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Hannelore and Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

When in or near Lubeck you must have Marzipan. This is Lothar's delicious birthday cake. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
When in or near Lubeck you must have Marzipan. This is Lothar’s delicious birthday cake. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christa enjoying catching up with Hannelore. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa enjoying catching up with Hannelore. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Before we left on Sunday, we found old family slides and the slide projector to look at some images that haven’t been seen in twenty years. We are bringing a few home to the States to digitize and print.

Christa introducing us to the guests at their engagement party May 7th 1960. Nagewitz and Muenchow family. Christa is in the middle wearing the dress with the bow and Lothar is behind her in a dark suit with dark hair. Christa is commenting on the fact that she is now older than the grandparents sitting in the front.Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa introducing us to the guests at their engagement party May 7th 1960. Nagewitz and Muenchow family. Christa is in the middle wearing the dress with the bow and Lothar is behind her in a dark suit with dark hair. Christa is commenting on the fact that she is now older than the grandparents sitting in the front.Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Cuties at the kids table From left to right: Burkhard, Andreas, cousin Petra and baby Christina. Photo taken on Wikinger Str. in Leck, Germany early 1965. This photo taken from the slide projected on the wall.
Cuties at the kids table From left to right: Burkhard, Andreas, cousin Petra and baby Christina. Photo taken on Wikinger Str. in Leck, Germany early 1965. This photo taken from the slide projected on the wall.

Andreas points to a photo of himself and a neighbor taken in Leck in 1962.
Andreas points to a photo of himself and a neighbor taken in Leck in 1962.

When I wished Lothar a happy birthday, I said here’s to eighty-five more! He said, “Oh no, only wish for five more at a time.” So, here’s to five more. In guter Gesundheit!

Selfie with the birthday boy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Selfie with the birthday boy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum